Some common questions we receive from clients involved in child support disputes are answered, as follows, by the recently released opinion, In the Interest of N.T, by the Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso:
Who decides how much child support payments are and what are some of the factors considered?
“The trial court has broad discretion in determining child-support payments. In re J.D.D., 242 S.W.3d 916, 919 (Tex. App. – Dallas 2008, pet. denied); Reyes v. Reyes, 946 S.W.2d 627, 629 (Tex. App. – Waco 1997, no pet.). Some of the factors a court may consider in assessing payments include the needs of the child, the ability of the parents to contribute to the child’s support, any financial resources available for support, and the amount of possession and access to the child. TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 154.123(b) (Vernon 2008). In calculating the net resources for purposes of determining child-support liability, the court may look to all wage and salary income, self-employment income, and other income being received. See Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 751, § 41, eff. Sept. 1, 1995 (current version at TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 154.062(b) (Vernon Supp. 2010)).”
Does the person obligated to pay child support have to disclose his financial information and will the Court solely rely on that information?
“By statute, the obligor is required to furnish information sufficient to accurately identify his net resources and ability to pay child support. TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 154.063 (Vernon 2008); Garner v. Garner, 200 S.W.3d 303, 306 (Tex. App. – Dallas 2006, no pet.). Nevertheless, the trial court is not required to accept the obligor’s evidence of income and net resources as true. Garner, 200 S.W.3d at 308; Hardin v. Hardin, 161 S.W.3d 14, 23 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 2004, no pet.), judgm’t vacated, op. not withdrawn, No. 14-03-00342-CV, 2005 WL 310076 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] Feb. 10, 2005, no pet.) (mem. op.). Indeed, the trial court may properly determine that an obligor has higher net resources than alleged based on testimony by the obligee and other evidence in the record. Burney v. Burney, 225 S.W.3d 208, 214 (Tex. App. – El Paso 2006, no pet.).”
Is the person obligated to pay child support required to find employment?
“The obligor who is qualified to obtain gainful employment cannot evade his support obligation by voluntarily remaining unemployed or underemployed. Eggemeyer v. Eggemeyer, 535 S.W.2d 425, 427-28 (Tex. Civ. App. – Austin 1976), aff’d, 554 S.W.2d 137 (Tex. 1977). Therefore, a trial court may order the obligor to pay child support beyond the amount the obligor’s income would ordinarily indicate if he could potentially earn more money but has intentionally chosen not to do so. See TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 154.066 (Vernon 2008); Schaban-Maurer v. Maurer-Schaban, 238 S.W.3d 815, 826 (Tex. App. – Fort Worth 2007, no pet.).”
If there is a finding of parentage, can the Court retroactively award child support?
“Upon a finding of parentage in a paternity action, a trial court may order retroactive child support. See TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 160.636(g) (Vernon 2008). In ordering retroactive child support, the trial court is generally limited to awarding the amount due for the four years preceding the date the petition was filed. See TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 154.131(c) (Vernon 2008). Further, the trial court should consider the net resources of the obligor during the relevant time period in determining the amount of retroactive child support to be ordered. Id. at §154.131(b).”
Bird, Skibell, & Bohach practices in the areas of Family Law and Divorce Law. Please contact us for a free initial consultation if you have a question about the Texas child support system.